Summer time 2024: why continuous seasonal changes are a health problem

Summer time 2024: why continuous seasonal changes are a health problem

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OfAnna Fregonara

The “owls” suffer the most in spring. The experts: «Better to choose permanent summer time». The practical mini-guide to combat insomnia

It’s time to put your hand on the clock. At two in the morning between Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st March come back daylight saving timeLand hands move forward one hour until Sunday 27 October when (barring twists and turns) solar time will return. And like every year the chorus of voices rises up singing the request to stop this alternation. Starting with James Rowley, president ofAmerican Academy of Sleep Medicinebecause, regardless of the pros and cons of each time, continually changing the time is linked to negative health effectsas more heart problems and more. Also there Society for Research on Biological Rhythms took a position in favor ofabolition of seasonal time changes.

Who suffers most from the time change

“The problem is not saying whether summer time or standard time is better, but understanding that it is preferable not to change it” he begins Luigi Ferini Strambi, full professor of Neurology at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University and director of the Sleep Medicine Center at the San Raffaele-Turro Hospital, Milan. «If you make a global assessment it would be better to keep the legal one forever because it would mean having more light, especially for those who live in countries at our latitude. To suffer most from the spring time change and the “owl”he who based on his own biological clock genetically determined internal, is aaccustomed to going to bed and getting up late, because he has to work even harder to wake up an hour early. They have difficulty with time changes also the elderly and children, categories accustomed to having fixed times that mark the day, such as those for eating and resting. And the animals, who are also used to respecting specific times.”

Watch your heart

The health effects of this have been investigated for some time mini jet lag. In new research published a few months ago on Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease the scholars analyzed the impact of the time change on the in-hospital clinical outcomes of patients with acute coronary syndromes undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (coronary angioplasty) included in the Polish National Registry of Interventional Cardiology Procedures between 2014 and 2021. « The risks of cardiac events is highest in spring, cases in fact increase in the week following daylight saving time rather than in the days following the restoration of solar time. This is because when the time change typical of this season occurs, we are more likely to be in a condition of sleep deprivation”, specifies the expert. «In another new study, released on Sleep has been seen to reduce mortality and have a more positive impact on our overall well-being, as well as sleep a sufficient number of hours, on average 7, seems to be more important maintain a certain regularity of the circadian rhythmour sleep-wake rhythm, favored by maintaining the same time.”

Other confirmatory research

Already in the past, a Finnish investigation had shown that, except for the first, on all days of the week following the entry into force of summer time there was a increase in the number of cardiac infarctions. «The same was true for the atrial fibrillation, according to a study conducted in the state of New York: the peculiarity in this case was that this statistical significance seemed more valid for women”, continues Ferini Strambi. «Another research, however, had found that the day after the time change they grew road accidents, an increase likely linked to sleep deprivation. However, in the entire period in which the spring-summer time was in force, accidents decreased significantly: this could also be explained by the greater light when people return home from work. In an Austrian study it was seen that in the week following the spring change there was an increase in the daily mortality rate of approximately 3% while no significant changes were observed after the return to solar time. In short, when evaluating the impact of changing the timetable, in addition to energy saving, we consider possible health risks. Let’s choose a time and stick to it all year round».

Collecting signatures for permanent summer time

Precisely in terms of energy saving, the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (SIMA) has entered the field and, together with «Non Profit Consumerism», has started a collection of signatures to ask the Government permanent daylight saving time. «It is a possibility envisaged by the European Union which already in 2019 approved a directive that puts an end to the double time change during the year, leaving wide discretion to the member states, hoping for coordination between the various nations to avoid repercussions on trade and cross-border movements”, says Alessandro Miani, president of SIMA. From the association’s calculations, on the energy front the adoption of permanent summer time all year round would produce lower energy consumption in our country of around 720 million equivalent kWh and, if we consider only the current electricity tariffs on the protected market , a bill saving of approximately 180 million euros per year. According to Terna, an electricity transmission operator, from 2004 to 2022 Italy saved around 2 billion euros and 10.9 billion kWh of electricity thanks to summer time. Added to this would be a massive cut in climate-changing emissions equal to 200 thousand tonnes less CO2, equivalent to that absorbed by planting 2 to 6 million new trees.

How to prepare for a better Monday

While we wait, let’s preserve our well-being gradually changing your sleep and meal routine. «The ideal is not to overdo it by staying late in the evening and to expose yourself to the light as soon as you get up, opening curtains and shutters», recommends Ferini Strambi. «It is important because light has an effect on increasing levels of cortisola hormone that modulates the stress response, and prevents the release of melatoninthe hormone that promotes sleepiness.”
Jade Wu, sleep psychologist and researcher at Duke University School of Medicine, in an interview with New York Times suggested planning fun activities for Sunday, the first day of the new time, especially if daylight saving time tends to make you feel irritable or down. Spending time outdoors, exercising or socializing with friends can help prevent bad moods and help you fall asleep earlier in the evening, thus preparing you for a better Monday, which is always one of the most difficult days of the week.

What to bring (or not) to the table

«To facilitate falling asleep», adds Silvana Hrelia, full professor of Biochemistry at the University of Bologna, «it is good do not exaggerate with alcohol and with the quantities of food, avoid nerve foods such as tea, coffee and cocoa.” While caffeine can help you wake up and adapt to the time change, it is best not to take it after 3pm or earlier if you are particularly sensitive to this substance. «Within a varied and balanced diet, however, there is room for foods rich in magnesium such as cereals such as oats and barley, bananas, dried fruit and those rich in tryptophan, an anti-insomnia amino acid. It is the precursor of serotonin and is found in foods such as almonds, whole grains, milk derivatives such as fresh unripened cheeses”, concludes Hrelia.

Mini practical guide to combat insomnia

Some advice, valid at any age, to get up with less effort and improve the quality of sleep:

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, the best way to respect circadian rhythms. When it gets late, the next day it is better not to get up too late and go to sleep early in the evening.
•Create a ritual before going to bed: brush your teeth and then relax by reading, practicing mindfulness, emptying your mind.
Avoid electronic devices at least an hour before bed. If you can’t help it, consult them standing up. When your body communicates that it is tired of being in that position, turn them off and go to bed.
No electronic devices in the room. If you use your cell phone alarm, don’t keep your smartphone on the bedside table so you are forced to get up to turn it off.
•If you like games, try the puzzle alarm clock: to turn it off you have to solve the puzzle.
•Reward yourself for getting up as soon as the alarm goes off.
•Follow the 30 minute rule: sand you don’t fall asleep within half an hour, get up otherwise the brain links the sleep disorder to the bed. Do something relaxing, such as reading, practicing deep breathing, listening to gentle music or podcasts, flipping through a magazine, and going back to bed as soon as you feel sleepy.
•If you work from home, do not use the bed as a desk because the brain can relate it to stressful situations.
Do regular sport, but no physical activity before going to sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, people with chronic insomnia can fall asleep about 13 minutes faster and gain up to 20 minutes more sleep a night by starting an exercise routine.
•If you don’t sleep well, keep a nightly diary and talk to your doctor about what to do.

March 29, 2024 (modified March 29, 2024 | 11:51)

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